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Monday, April 24, 2006

Music For The Masses

I'm back from my vacation (and the lost week of lingering laziness that followed) with an inspiring article about Venezuela's music education program. Initiated by former minister of culture Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu in 1974 (long before the current Bolivarian revolution), the program has transformed Venezuela into "probably the world's leading musical centre" by making classical musicians out of many underprivileged, young Venezuelans. Consider this amazing fact:
Abreu managed to get a law passed by parliament, guaranteeing every child the right to a musical education.
To an American, the idea that a music education could be considered a guaranteed "right" is astounding. If we live in the (so-called) richest country, then why can't we have this right? It goes on:
Teachers go into schools in the countryside, the slums and the towns and let the children play with instruments.

If they show an interest, they are allowed to borrow the instrument of their choice, but have to agree to practice and to perform on it within a few weeks.

If they keep up their interest and practice seriously for two years, they are allowed to keep their instrument.

It all sounds so straightforward. With support from Venezuela's state oil company (more reason to buy your gas at Citgo - it will help put instruments in the hands of Venezuela's poor children), the program has an estimated quarter of a million young Venezuelans either playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir. Dr. Abreu sums it up better than I could:
"Historically, classical music was performed by an elite for an elite, then by an elite for the majority, but, in Venezuela, it is now being performed by a majority for a majority."

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